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The lowdown on STIs

 

Did you know that Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are on the rise? (1) No one wants an STI (obviously). Catching one can put your health – and even your fertility – at stake. Likewise, giving someone else one isn’t exactly a turn-on. “Eek… Would you like genital herpes with that?”

 

There’s no need to hold yourself back from enjoying sex and experimenting sexually with whomever you fancy (presuming they fancy it too… it’s probably time to let your insta-crush know you exist). Just be mindful of how to stay safe – whatever your age, relationship status, gender or sexuality. Because if there’s one thing STIs have going for them, it’s that they don’t discriminate.

 

Condoms can help provide STI protection, so you can enjoy the ride. Just make sure they’re a comfortable and secure fit and in date (you can find the expiry date printed on the box and foil packing of all Durex condoms). Make sure to always use a water-based or silicone-based lubricant – other oil-based products can actually weaken the condom. And remember that if someone is pressuring you to have unprotected sex when you want to use protection, it’s your body and your choice – so what you want goes.

 

Now let’s get down to it – here are the most common STIs and their associated symptoms to look out for.

 

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is the most common STI in New Zealand and often doesn’t show any symptoms whatsoever. That’s why it’s really important to get yourself tested at the doctors or sexual health clinic every so often (and any time after you’ve had unprotected sex with a new partner).

Here are the symptoms to look out for if they do show:

  • Pain when peeing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unusual discharge from the vagina or penis
  • Discharge or bleeding from your anus if you have been having anal sex
  • In women, bleeding between periods or after sex might occur
  • Men may experience painful or swollen testicles

 

Genital herpes

Like chlamydia, genital herpes can be very difficult to spot at first, with symptoms generally not being all that noticeable. It can spread through oral, vaginal or anal intercourse.

Typical symptoms include:

  • Blisters or ulcers on the genitals
  • Itching or pain when urinating
  • Cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Feeling very tired or run down

Although condoms don’t fully protect against herpes, as the infected skin area wont always be covered, they still reduce the risk and should be worn.

 

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is common in New Zealand, particularly in people 25 years old. It is a bacterial infection that is very easy to catch, but fortunately, is easy to treat with antibiotics. 

Symptoms of gonorrhea include:

  • Pain when peeing or having sex
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unusual discharge from the vagina or penis
  • In women, bleeding between periods or after sex might occur
  • Men may experience painful or swollen testicles

 

 

Of course, don’t forget that more STIs exist than the ones mentioned, so if you have any doubts, visit your doctor or sexual health clinic.  

 

Now you know the ins-and-outs – it should be easier to stay safe out there, and in the bedroom. Whatever takes your fancy.

 

Always read the label. Use only as directed. Reckitt Benckiser, Auckland. 

 

References:

1) The Institute of Environmental Science and Research, ESR Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) surveillance, 2019

2)Family Planning, Chlamydia, 2019

Ministry of Health, Just The Facts, 2019